HOLLYWOOD—John Fogerty of Creedence Clearwater Revival, had to sign away all of his royalties, in order to leave CCR. Back in 1985, Fogerty recorded and released a song called Zanz Can’t Dance from the Centerfield album, which was about a con man and his con pig. That led to a Defamation of Character lawsuit filed by Saul Zaentz. Later, yet another lawsuit filed claiming that the lead track to that same album; The Old Man Down the Road, was a replica of a CCR song; Run Through the Jungle. Essentially, John Fogerty was now being accused of plagiarizing himself.
After Fogerty took his guitar to court and played the song, the jury decided that the two songs were not the same, the only thing they shared is the same style and that was not a copyright/plagiarism issue. After the court ruled to dismiss the case, Fogerty filed his own lawsuit against Fantasy Records for attorneys fee and was granted restitution by the U.S. Supreme Court. John considered this a very important case as it would have bearing on whether an artist could continue on his or her own style once signing over rights to their creations. As far as the defamation case, the name of the song was changed from Zanz to Vanz.
So many artists including the late Beatle George Harrison, where the song “My Sweet Lord,” was compared to “He’s So Fine,” by the Chiffons. The case took five years to be heard, during which time George Harrison’s attorney’s continued to try to settle out of court, with an offer of $148,000, but it never reached fruition before the court case proceeded, as the attorneys for Bright tunes Music Corp, wanted 75 percent of the royalties and the surrendering of the copyright for “My Sweet Lord.”
The case was finally heard in 1976, the judge found that though he didn’t believe George Harrison purposely plagiarized the song, the two songs were essentially the same, only displaying minor differences to note and chord. George Harrison was found guilty of “subconscious plagiarism” and a judgment was filed against him in the amount of $587,000 of which the full amount was paid and the judgment dismissed in 1981.
The case of Michael Bolton and The Isley Brothers, shared a song with the same name and some of the same lyrics. The Isley Brothers released their song in 1966 under the same name “Love is a Wonderful Thing,” while Michael Bolton’s song was released in 1991. A lawsuit was brought against Michael Bolton by the Isley Brothers. The district court found in favor of the Isley Brothers and left the largest award in history for plagiarism in the music industry intact. The Isley Brothers were awarded $5.4 million dollars, the calculation based on 66 percent of past and future royalties. Also taken into account was 28 percent of the past and future royalties of the album “Time, Love and Tenderness” as “Love is a Wonderful Thing” is contained within that album.
Now, artists are being advised not to state publicly who they’re inspired by on their new music. Who remembers Nile Rodgers? The music producer and songwriter says, “There is no such thing as a completely original composition.” “The art of music-making is the reinterpretation of these rules that we learned. This is because of a high-profile copyright infringement case in which US jurors ruled that Robin Thicke and Pharrell Williams, on their song Blurred Lines, had copied Marvin Gaye’s Got To Give It Up. The Gaye family estate was awarded $7.3 million in damages, although an appeal has since been launched.
Everyone’s concerned that inspiration can now be interpreted as a catalyst for infringement. All record companies are worried that if a track is referenced on another at all, there may be a claim being brought. Some artists are now having the requirement to name their influences written into contracts by their record labels.
Rose’s Scoop: Nicky Hilton is pregnant and expecting her second child with her hubby, James Rothschild. What a marriage made in heaven, the Hiltons with the Rothschild.